Spicy Vietnamese Ginger Elk Noodle Bowl

Burger!  It’s what you do with the cuts and scraps of your venison that you’re not sure what to do with otherwise, right?  Once you have your loin cuts, steaks, chops, roasts, shanks, scallopini (you ARE doing scallopini, right? … we’ll talk) and maybe some stew meat, the rest goes into the grinder.   And why not?  Elk burgers are delicious, as is elk meatloaf, chili, sausage…

However, tonight I was in the mood for some noodles, and decided to make them with an Asian flair.  I adapted this dish from one usually made with pork.  Shifting  some ingredients and seasoning made this work really well with fresh game.
See if you agree.

Spicy Ginger Elk Noodle Bowl

yield: 4 portions or 2 hunter sized bowls

  • Rice Noodles                4 oz
  • Sesame Oil                   1 Tbs
  • Canola or Peanut Oil  1 Tbs
  • Minced Shallots          2 Tbs
  • Chopped Garlic            2 Tbs
  • Chopped Ginger          3 Tbs
  • Sliced Thai or Serrano Chilis   1 – 2 Tbs, depending on how spicy you like it
  • Ground Elk or other Venison  1 lb
  • Kosher Salt                 1 tsp
  • Soy Sauce                    1/4 cup
  • Fish Sauce                   2 tsp
  • Brown Sugar                1 Tbs
  • Juice of 1/2 lime
  • Wild Mushrooms       1 cup (I used freshly foraged Chanterelles)
  • Beef Broth or Venison Stock  2 cups
  • Baby Bok Choy          2 heads, separated into individual leaves
  • Bean Sprouts             1 cup
  • Green Onions, sliced into long pieces   4 each
  • Chopped Cilantro     1/2 cup

Before we get into the recipe, let’s go over a couple of the ingredients.

Rice noodles, or rice stick, can be found in the Asian section of most major supermarkets.  If you go to an Asian market or shop online, you can find them ranging from vermicelli thin, to egg noodle wide.  Any of them will work with this recipe.  Pick your pleasure.

Asian fish sauce is an interesting ingredient.  It’s kind of counter intuitive to the standard American palate, because on its own, it doesn’t smell very pleasant.  We don’t even want to go into how it’s made.  However, it adds a deep, savory flavor to dishes that is unique.  You want to keep a bottle of this in your pantry.

One final thing, don’t shortcut on the ginger.  I keep running into people that believe powdered dry ginger can be used as a substitute for the fresh stuff.  It can’t.  Fresh ginger is great, dry ginger is great, but they are different and need to be used differently.  Also, let me give you a quick tip for chopping ginger.  Ginger has strong fibers running through it.  For that reason, you can’t just toss it into a food processor, because while the ginger will get chopped up, long pieces of those fibers will stay intact, and they are not pleasant to get in your mouth. 
After you peel the ginger, the first thing you want to do is slice it thinly across those fibers, cutting them very short.  Once that is done, you can continue on to chop it up any way you like without concern about those pesky fibers being an issue.

All right, let’s get cookin’.

Start off by getting your water going for the rice noodles.  Cook these just like you would any other pasta, boil in lightly salted until tender but still a little firm.  Properly cooked rice noodles have a bit of chewy elasticity to them.  Keep in mind that you’re going to cook the noodles more later, after the boiling, so keep them al dente at this point.

Add the oils to a large sauté pan and place it over high heat.  Add in the shallots, garlic, ginger, and chilis.  Sauté, stirring frequently, for 3 minutes.  Don’t let these vegetables brown.  

Add in the ground elk and immediately begin stirring it, breaking up any lumps as the meat browns.  A wooden spoon works best for this.

Once the meat is about half browned, begin adding the salt, soy sauce, fish sauce, sugar, and lime juice, one at a time, while you keep stirring the meat.  Once the meat is fully browned, add in the bok choy, beans sprouts, and mushrooms. 

Continue sautéing and stirring for 4 more minutes, then add in the broth.  Bring it to a boil, then stir in the rice noodles.  Return it to a simmer, check the seasoning, and cook for 5 more minutes.

Most of the liquid is going to disappear.  That’s OK, you’re making noodle bowls, not soup.  All that flavor will concentrate into the dish, and that’s exactly what you want.
Now all you need to do is stir in the cilantro and scallions, then it’s time to enjoy!


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